Posts tagged ‘philanthropy’

February 5, 2016

It’s Not Too Late to Think about Year-End Giving

No, the headline does not contain a typo. It’s not too late to think about your 2015 year-end giving. It’s also not too early to begin planning for your 2016 year-end appeal strategy. Let me tell you why.

Only about one-third of tax filers itemize on their tax returns. Therefore, year-end giving for tax avoidance is simply not that important to the majority of donors. Furthermore, survey after survey indicates that tax avoidance is a very low motivating factor for most donors. So, why put a tremendous amount of energy and resources into doing a year-end fundraising campaign? Here are some of the rationales:

Herd Mentality. The fourth quarter of the calendar year is a busy time for charity appeals. The largest number of direct mail appeals is sent at that time. For phone fundraising, it is also the busiest time of year. So, since everyone else is doing it, fundraisers think they should be out there, too. #GivingTuesday helps perpetuate this mentality.

Heaping Pile of Mail by Charles Williams via FlickrIt’s the Right Time. For some charities, doing a year-end campaign around the holidays is appropriate given the mission and/or history of the organization. Consider The Salvation Army and its red-kettle campaign, or the Toy-for-Tots effort geared to providing holiday presents for children. For other organizations, donors are simply accustomed to seeing and responding to a year-end appeal.

Year-End is a Time of Giving. With Hanukah and Christmas falling at year-end, there is certainly a giving spirit leading into the end of the year. Charities hope to piggyback on that giving spirit.

Charities Simply Must Appeal at Year-End. This relates to the first two reasons above. Fundraisers think they have to do a year-end appeal because it’s the thing to do or because the organization has always done one. Without giving it much thought, fundraisers conclude that a year-end appeal is simply something that is best practice.

Despite the conventional wisdom, doing a year-end appeal might actually short-change your organization. There might be a more effective way for you to raise money.

I’ve worked with charities that have tested a year-end appeal against a beginning-of-the-year campaign. Many of these charities found they could raise far more money in January and February instead of at year-end.

Why did those charities raise more money at the beginning of the year rather than at the end of it?

Interestingly, the reasons can be found when taking a closer look at the reasons I’ve outlined for year-end giving:

January 15, 2016

3 Direct Mail & Email Lessons from the For-Profit World

The nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from each other. For example, there are three powerful insights from the for-profit sector about direct mail and email marketing that fundraising professionals can certainly benefit from.

In a never-ending search for the latest, greatest tactics and ways to cut costs, the nonprofit sector has embraced email fundraising while frequently questioning whether direct mail is dead.

So, what can the for-profit sector teach us?

Lesson 1: Direct Mail is Alive and Well

For both customer acquisition and retention, the for-profit sector knows that direct mail still works. That’s probably because 73 percent of consumers prefer direct mail, according to Epsilon. Furthermore, Interquest Digital Direct Mail Printing reports that direct mail delivers 30 times the response rate of email.

Direct Mail v Email InfographicWhile the numbers will be somewhat different for the nonprofit sector, or for particular organizations, the reality is that consumers (also our donors) like direct mail. That’s why they respond to it. While direct mail is not as effective as it was several decades ago, it remains a powerful fundraising tool.

Now, I’m talking about high-quality, well-crafted direct mail, not something you just throw together. I’m talking about direct mail that is donor centered and touches the prospect’s emotions. I guarantee you that bad direct mail will produce poor results. However, a good direct mail appeal will still achieve meaningful results.

Lesson 2: Direct Mail and Email Work Better Together

It’s not just chocolate and peanut butter that go together. The marketing agency Merkle has shown, in a study for one of its pharmaceutical clients, that email can produce a greater response than direct mail. However, when direct mail and email were used together in a multi-channel marketing campaign, the result was a 118 percent lift over direct mail alone.

For a wealth management client, Merkle found that it could generate a call response that was 1.5 to 3.8 times greater when using email and direct mail together rather than direct mail alone.

Direct Mail and Email 2Sometimes, nonprofit organizations think of their fundraising efforts in silos. “Let’s plan our direct mail appeal. If people don’t respond, we can call them later to renew. But, we’ll need to make sure the timing doesn’t interfere with our email appeal.” Sometimes, I’ll see charities that will exclude people from the direct mail pool who are in the email pool; it’s often seen as a cost-saving tactic.

The reality is that multi-channel, coordinated marketing (and, yes, fundraising) works. Some people are more direct mail responsive (whether or not you have their email address in your system). Other folks are more email responsive. Some individuals need to hear from you a couple of times before you capture their attention. For all of these reasons, multi-channel fundraising could help you get better results. By the way, it’s not just a matter of coordinating direct mail and email. You can also coordinate direct mail and the telephone, email and advertising, etc.

Lesson 3: Test!

January 12, 2016

Here are Some Items You Do Not Want to Miss

If you’re at all like me, 2015 was a busy year for you. 2016 is likely to be more of the same. We work to meet workplace goals. We strive to properly balance our professional and personal lives. And we endeavor to broaden our professional knowledge. Unfortunately, with all of the demands placed on us and with the wealth of material available in the marketplace, it’s easy to overlook useful and interesting information.

So, I thought I’d share some highlights from 2015 with you and give you a chance to pick up some information you might have missed and that you may find interesting and/or helpful.

Here is a list of my top ten most read posts during the past year:

  1. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  2. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  3. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants IdentifiedTop 10 by Sam Churchill via Flickr
  4. The Greatest Idea for Retaining and Upgrading Donors
  5. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  6. 3 Mistakes You Make When You Meet Prospects
  7. Where Should You Avoid Meeting with Prospects and Donors?
  8. Breaking News: Big Planned Giving Myth Busted!
  9. 5 Fundraising Tips Inspired by Taylor Swift
  10. Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

In addition to sharing my thoughts right here on my blog, 2015 also gave me the opportunity to talk about philanthropy with the mainstream media. For example, I appeared on the PBS television program “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” to discuss the Effective Altruism philosophy. You can see the video and read my additional comments in my post:

Is There Just One Correct Way to Engage in Philanthropy?

My comments about Effective Altruism were also picked up by several Gannett newspapers including USA Today:

Expert Sparks Heated Debate Over What’s a “Worthy” Charity

I also had fun as Steven Shattuck’s guest on Bloomerang TV. Steven and I had a lively discussion about simple, effective ways to cultivate donors and raise more money. You can read about this and see the video by going to this post:

Easy Ways to Cultivate Your Donors and Raise More Money

In 2015, I was honored to be included on three lists of must-read fundraising and nonprofit management blog sites. In case you missed the announcements, and to help you find other valuable resources, here are the relevant posts:

There’s something else you might have missed. I shared a list of some of my favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups:

What are Your Favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups?

In addition to my listing of favorite LinkedIn Discussion Groups, I also announced that I created a new Group: Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers.

January 8, 2016

The Nonprofit Sector Wins a Battle with the IRS!

The US Internal Revenue Service delivered some good news to start the new year. The IRS has withdrawn its controversial proposed regulation that would have encouraged charities to acquire, record, and report the Social Security numbers of all donors who give $250 or more in any given calendar year.

High Five by Allie Kenny via FlickrIn a post (“Warning: The IRS Wants You to Do Something Dangerous”) last month, I outlined some of my problems with the IRS proposal, and joined with others to call on individuals and organizations to share their comments with the IRS.

Nearly 38,000 official comments opposing the proposal were submitted to the IRS, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Interestingly, both charities and charity regulators expressed serious concerns about the proposal.

In the notice of withdraw, Karen Schiller, IRS Acting Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, wrote:

Many of these public comments questioned the need for donee reporting, and many comments expressed significant concerns about donee organizations collecting and maintaining taxpayer identification numbers [including Social Security numbers] …. Accordingly, the notice of proposed rulemaking is being withdrawn.”

The news from the IRS is certainly good. On the surface, it’s great that the agency has withdrawn a potentially dangerous proposed regulation that could have led to identity theft, decreased philanthropy, and other problems. But, there is more good news in this story.

January 5, 2016

What Helpful Books Have You Read Lately?

Many of us in the nonprofit world read books to discover fresh ways to generate improved results or to find inspiration. But, with so many nonprofit management and fundraising books in the marketplace, how can you find those that will be worth your time to read?

Click for Donor-Centered Planned Gift MarketingI have a solution for you.

You can visit The Nonprofit Bookstore (powered by Amazon). I created this site to help you find books that will get results and inspire. You can search for specific titles or browse the books listed in various categories, including “Readers Recommend” and “AFP-Wiley Development Series.”

When you buy books through The Nonprofit Bookstore, you’ll get Amazon’s great pricing and, without any cost to you, a portion of your purchase will be donated to charity.

You can help make this resource more meaningful by recommending any books you’ve read recently that you have found particularly helpful. You can make your recommendations in the comment section below by providing the book title and author name for any volume you think will be of value to nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals. The book(s) you recommend can be either a classic or a new title.

The objective here is to build a list of worthwhile books we should all consider adding to our 2016 reading lists.

By recommending a book here, you’ll get two benefits:

  1. You’ll have the pleasure of helping your nonprofit brothers and sisters find worthwhile reading material that can help them and their organizations.
  2. You’ll have the satisfaction of having your selected book(s) listed in the “Readers Recommend” section at The Nonprofit Bookstore where it can help even more people.

So, what useful, informative, inspirational book(s) do you think folks should add to their 2016 reading lists?

I’ll close by offering you a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Dr. Russell James that normally retails for $9.99:

December 21, 2015

Breaking News: Charitable Giving Incentives Made Permanent!

The US Congress has approved and President Barack Obama has signed the so-called Tax Extenders package that not only includes a number of charitable giving incentives, such as the IRA Charitable Rollover, it has made those incentives permanent.

An article in Forbes, prior to passage of the legislation, nicely outlines the measure’s major provisions including the key charitable giving incentives:

  • deduction allowed for charitable contribution of real property for conservation purposes,
  • taxpayers over age 70 1/2 may make donations directly from an IRA and will not be taxed on the amounts (up to $100,000),
  • a shareholder in an S corporation will be required to reduce his basis in the S corporation’s stock under Section 1366 only for his share of the basis of property contributed by the S corporation; not the fair market value.

This is a tremendous moment for the nonprofit sector. Not only have these important giving incentives been renewed, they have been made permanent!

We all owe thanks to the staff and volunteers of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, particularly General Counsel Jason Lee. AFP has taken the lead in fighting to get these giving incentives and making them permanent.

Santorum and MJR

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Michael J. Rosen on Capitol Hill.

For more than a decade, I’ve worked with my AFP colleagues, first as a member of the US Government Relations Committee, then founding Board Member of the AFP Political Action Committee, and then as Board Chairman of the AFP PAC.

Our efforts date back to assisting with the drafting of the CARE Act with then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). The bill was co-sponsored by then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Despite the bipartisan effort, the CARE Act failed to pass. However, certain charitable giving incentives that were part of the CARE Act were adopted, on a year-to-year basis, including the IRA Charitable Rollover. It took a decade but, finally, the incentives are now permanent!

I’m proud to have been able to play a significant role on this issue. I’ve enjoyed working with other passionate volunteers and staff.

We also need to take this opportunity to thank The Charitable Giving Coalition and its member organizations along with every individual who has worked for this legislation.

Let’s take a much deserved victory lap! Let’s do an end-zone dance! Let’s toast this achievement! Then, let’s get back to work. There’s much to be done to promote the giving incentives.

To help you promote the IRA Charitable Rollover, The Council on Foundations has put together an excellent free, downloadable toolkit that includes:

  • Talking points, a fact sheet, and web content;
  • An event presentation;
  • Tools that explain which available options might best serve donors;
  • Donor and professional advisor advertisements.

You can download the Council’s “Charitable IRA Worksheet” for donors by clicking here. You can find the full toolkit by clicking here.

December 16, 2015

Is There Just One Correct Way to Engage in #Philanthropy?

Peter Singer, a philosophy professor at Princeton University, seems to think there is just one correct way to engage in philanthropy. Not surprisingly, it’s his way, which he calls “Effective Altruism.”

While I agree with some of the elements of Effective Altruism, there are a number of points with which I disagree. Recently, both Singer and I had a chance to air some of our views on the national PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

At the risk of providing you with a simplistic overview of Effective Altruism, here are some of its key elements and my concerns with them:

Donors should not make emotional decisions about philanthropy. They should devote serious thought and analysis when making giving decisions.

I agree that donors should make informed decisions, examine the efficiency and track record of charities, and understand how their gifts will be used. If more donors spent more time researching the charities they give to, there would likely be fewer fraudulent charities.

However, while donors should engage in more thoughtful, analytical giving — and many do — we should not ignore basic human nature and the findings of neuroscience research. It’s unreasonable to suggest philanthropic giving should be a solely intellectual exercise. The fact is that emotions are involved in almost every decision we humans make. This means, we need to give with both our heads and our hearts.

Individuals should seek to earn as much money as they can so they can donate more money than they otherwise could.

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable, worthwhile suggestion. However, in practice, this could create cultural and economic problems. For example, if everyone followed this advice, it could lead many charities to become understaffed, staffed with incompetent people, or having to take funds away from mission fulfillment in order to pay competitively much higher salaries.

Our society doesn’t just need lawyers and Wall Street traders, we need a diverse labor force, and we need people who will actually do good in addition to funding good.

Getting people to donate more does not just involve getting them to earn more. On average, Americans donate approximately two percent of personal income to charities. Without earning more, donors could certainly give more than the two percent average without having to make a serious sacrifice. The key is to inspire donors to want to do so. That’s where we get back to appealing to both hearts and minds.

Donors should give where it will do the most good.

Everyone who donates or volunteers their time wants to support effective organizations. But, how does Singer define “Effective”? It turns out he doesn’t just mean efficient and impactful. For Singer, effective is essentially synonymous with life-saving. Singer demonstrates this at The Life You Can Save, a website he founded, where all of the recommended charities focus on saving lives.

While saving lives is certainly noble, Singer doesn’t simply advocate for such charities. He ridicules donors who support charities that are not engaged in life-saving activities. Among his favorite targets are donors to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He implies that people who donate to Make-a-Wish are guilty of murder since they do not, instead, give to a charity that buys mosquito nets to prevent malaria. You can read my analysis of a Singer anti-Make-a-Wish column here.

Actually, Singer himself is not always in favor of saving lives. For example, he has supported infanticide, what he calls “after-birth abortion.” Under certain circumstances, defined by Singer, he believes it is perfectly acceptable to murder babies. In Practical Ethics, he wrote:

December 11, 2015

Warning: The IRS Wants You to Do Something Dangerous

The US Internal Revenue Service wants you to do something foolish.

The IRS has proposed that charities acquire, record, and report the Social Security numbers of all donors who give $250 or more in any given calendar year. The IRS justifies the proposal by stating that “the collection of information is necessary to properly substantiate charitable contribution deductions under the exception to the general requirements for substantiating charitable contribution deductions of $250 or more.”

IRS logoHowever, the proposed regulation is particularly stupid because it is completely unnecessary while being dangerous — to nonprofits and their donors — and costly to implement properly.

You can read the proposed regulation by clicking here. In addition, the website will allow you to share your comments with the IRS by December 16, 2015.

If adopted, compliance with the regulation would be voluntary, for now. Nevertheless, there are several reasons you should be very wary, including:

Voluntary Compliance Could be Made a Requirement.

If the IRS truly believes the measure is necessary, why wouldn’t it seek to change voluntary compliance to a requirement? The collection of Social Security numbers from donors is either essential or not. The IRS can’t have it both ways. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that the IRS is cynically hoping to gain acceptance for the proposal in stages, first seeking voluntary compliance before making it a requirement.

“Any proposed regulations that would create this has the potential for being a slippery slope,” David Heinen, spokesman for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, told Fox News.

The IRS Lacks the Capacity to Safeguard Data.

“Number one, the IRS has not demonstrated its capacity to hold this type of information from confidentiality and a security point of view,” US Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Fox News.

Mark Fitzgibbons, President of Corporate Affairs at American Target Advertising, echoed Roskam’s concerns when he told Fox News, “The IRS can’t keep its information confidential, they’ve been hacked.” ATA offers direct-response fundraising services.

There are two major security problems with providing the IRS with donor Social Security numbers: 1) The very real risk that the data would not be safe in the hands of the IRS, and 2) the public’s perception that the data would be at risk at the IRS.

Most Charities Lack the Ability to Safeguard Data.

The data security concern also applies to charities themselves. Few nonprofit organizations are capable of truly protecting donor data. Giving hackers and nefarious insiders easy access to donor Social Security numbers and other information puts donors at significant risk of identity theft. To mitigate that risk would cost charities an enormous amount of money.

“Charities are not well equipped to deal with this,” Roskam said. “We’ve had for-profit companies — some of the biggest companies in the world — that have spent millions and millions and millions of dollars trying to protect their confidential data. And it’s been hacked, and it’s been breached.”

December 8, 2015

Special Report: You Read about It Here First

[Publisher’s Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including “Special Reports,” please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column. New subscribers will also receive a free e-book from researcher Dr. Russell James.]

 

At Michael Rosen Says…, I strive to introduce you to exceptional people with something valuable to offer fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers. I also endeavor to share useful tips and provocative opinions with you. From time-to-time, other media outlets take notice. Here are two recent examples:

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

I introduced you to Isabelle Clérié, a young fundraising professional. At the time, Isabelle was working in the U.S. She has since returned to her native Haiti where she is now Country Director for EGI, an NGO working to combat poverty by assisting and training emerging entrepreneurs.

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

Isabelle Clérié, Country Director, EGI in Haiti

Isabelle wrote a guest blog post which I published nearly four years ago: “Haiti: A Young Professional’s Compelling Lessons for All Nonprofits.”

The post focused on relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In addition to providing some interesting insights into the relief efforts, Isabelle shares some valuable tips that can make any charity more effective.

Now, Forbes has discovered Isabelle and has highlighted her work in Haiti in a recent report: “Three Social Entrepreneurs Driving Growth And Change In Haiti.”

I congratulate Isabelle on the much-deserved public recognition she has received, and I applaud EGI for making a difference in Haiti.

I encourage you to read Isabelle’s post and the article in Forbes.

#GivingTuesday

My regular readers know that while I like the idea of #GivingTuesday, I have not been impressed with the results. In fact, I actually have some serious concerns about the occasion.

Recently, The Chronicle of Philanthropy interviewed me for the article “Giving Tuesday? More Like Gimmick Tuesday, Some Small Nonprofits Say.” This gave me the opportunity to once again share my thoughts on the subject. You can download the article and read what I had to say.

December 4, 2015

What Can a Steakhouse Teach You about #Fundraising?

Not long ago, I visited The Capital Grille where the chef served more than perfectly prepared steaks. At the end of the meal, he also served up a valuable fundraising lesson, albeit unwittingly.

Capital Grille TY NoteLast week, in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving. This week, we marked #GivingTuesday. Inspired by both of those occasions, I’m going to share my Capital Grille experience with you.

At the end of a wonderful meal, some uneaten steak remained on my plate. There was no way I was going to let the succulent meat go to waste when I could use it to make a perfectly delicious sandwich the next day.

So, I asked our waiter to please wrap it to go.

I didn’t give the matter any further thought as I waited for the package to arrive from the kitchen. Up until this point, everything was pretty much routine.

However, when my to-go package of leftover steak arrived in a nice paper bag, I couldn’t help but notice a note tied to the bag’s handle. The note, hand signed by the chef, read:

We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business.”

I’m more than a half-century old. I dine out quite a bit. In my life, I’ve taken leftovers home on many occasions. However, this was the first time that my leftover package came with a hand-signed thank-you note!

Here are five takeaways for you:

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